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IRVINE, Calif. — It’s not unusual when a pro athlete is asked a question that the vanilla comes spilling out. Vague answers. Bland responses. Nothing controversial or newsworthy.
So it was refreshing when Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald was asked how good the defensive line can be this year and he bluntly responded they might end up one of the best ever.
“We can go down as one of the best in history,” Donald said. “With the talent we’ve got on this defensive line and the way they play, we can be one of those (top) defensive lines for sure.”
With a nod to the Steel Curtain and the Purple People Eaters and the Fearsome Foursome, that might be a bit of a stretch. But you have to respect the swagger and confidence that Donald – not one to be boastful – brings to the discussion.
And while the Rams line might not rise to one of the best in NFL history, that doesn’t mean it can’t be one of the best in the league in 2016 and in turn, potentially help the Rams turn the corner from the 7-9 teams they’ve been recently to a potential playoff contender.
With the All-Pro Donald forming an interior wall with fellow defensive tackle Michael Brockers and William Hayes and Robert Quinn bringing the heat outside, the pieces are in place.
Throw in the depth of Eugene Sims, Ethan Westbrooks, Matt Longacre, Cam Thomas, Quinton Coples and Dominique Easley and the Rams look stacked from top to bottom.
“We’ve got everybody. From left to right, inside to outside,” Coples said. “Now it’s just a matter of doing it. And giving the offense as many opportunities to put points on the board as we can. Maybe that’s through a turnover, or creating better field position.”
It all starts with Donald, though.
Already considered one of the NFL’s top defensive tackles, Donald enters his third NFL season with the goal of getting even better in mind.
“I’ve been working on my technique, trying to split double teams a lot better and holding double teams,” Donald said. “I’m just trying to clean up little things, and just working.”
Donald’s 11 sacks last season were tied for first among defensive tackles and earned him a second consecutive Pro Bowl selection. And with Quinn back healthy and depth added through free agency, the Rams are poised to be a dominant unit.
“I don’t think it’s just me making plays on the defensive line. It’s so many of us,” Donald said. “All of those guys have been making plays before I even got here. We just work good together and we all make plays.”